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‘Captain Marvel’: The Problem with Prequels

Before the movie everyone is waiting for, fans of the Avengers films have to, get to, or whatever your verb choice is, sit through “Captain Marvel.” The movie in and of itself, without its connection to the larger franchise, has nothing really wrong with it.

Clark Gregg is amazing and fun. Brie Larson is a badass, and Samuel Jackson delivers as Agent Fury. There’s plenty of action, one lame reveal, and an amazing cat made for the Internet. The lame reveal is lame, but it’s surprising in its lameness, which makes it less lame by a smidge. At any rate, Marvel makes a good movie.

The problem is that “Captain Marvel” is a prequel, so there aren’t any stakes to speak of. You know what’s coming next “Avengers: Endgame.” If you’ve seen the other Marvel films, you know the Earth isn’t in danger, at least during this film. Captain Marvel is coming to fight Thanos and save the current half of the Marvel universe. That meta-knowledge renders the stakes in this film pointless. Captain Marvel, Agents Coulson and Fury, and Korath are all safe. Flashbacks have the same problem as prequels, but they’re shorter. (Let’s not talk about a flashback in a prequel; it gets too difficult to process.) How do you raise the stakes if the audience knows the outcome?

“Captain Marvel” doesn’t answer the question well. Instead, it settles for a cliché shot at an ancillary character Still, it’s a nice film, with a beautiful tribute to Stan Lee and his cameo. “Captain Marvel” is just enough to whet the appetite for Marvel’s “Endgame.”

Read more blog posts about Marvel.

Which was better: “Captain Marvel” or “Wonder Woman”? Leave your answer in the comments!

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Who Has the Better Fans: Marvel or Star Wars?

As “Avengers: Endgame” prepares to fall short of the domestic box office total of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” we should ask who has the better movie fans. Are Star Wars fans better than Marvel fans?

In the top 20 domestic movie box offices of all-time, there are five movies form the Star Wars franchise: “Star Wars” at 16, “Star Wars: Episode 1 – the Phantom Menace” at 15, “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” at 12, “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” at 9, and “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” on top of the domestic box office with almost $1 billion. The total take for these films is about $3.02 billion.

Marvel also has five films in the top 20: “Avengers: Age of Ultron” at 17, “Marvel’s The Avengers” at 8, “Avengers: Endgame” at 7 (still in theaters and projected to grab the number two spot), “Avengers: Infinity War” at 3, and “Black Panther” at 2. These films have totaled about $3.1 billion. Based on these two metrics, Marvel movie fans have the edge over Star Wars fans. (“Captain Marvel” is still in theaters and could make it to the top 20 if it receives a continued “Endgame” boost. It stands at 24 and is about $14 million away from passing “E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial” and taking the 20th spot.)

Until “Star Wars: Rise of the Skywalker,” Marvel fans will continue to have the edge, especially with “Endgame” making it to the second spot, giving Marvel three films in the top 5 for domestic gross. (In case you’re counting, when “Endgame” passes “Titanic,” Disney properties will own the top 5 movies of all time for unadjusted domestic box office.)

Marvel fans can make a huge statement with several films still on the docket before the next Star Wars release. The biggest statement would come if they can propel “Endgame” to the top spot and get “Captain Marvel” into the top 20. “X-Men: The Dark Phoenix,” “Men in Black International,” “Spider-Man: Far from Home,” “The New Mutants,” and “Kingsman 3” are all opportunities for Marvel fans to exercise their power as the best fan base by voting at the box office.

With the crash and burn of “Solo,” Disney has taken a step back from its Star Wars movie properties. However, in real life, Star Wars is the only property with its own land: “Galaxy’s Edge.” While Marvel characters have taken over Hollywood Studios at Disney California Adventure, it isn’t Marvel’s land; the heroes are scheduled to be moved into the former Bug’s Land in 2020.  This seems like a tie. So, what do you think?

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Marvel Vs. DC: Who has the better fans?

Looking at the box office scoreboard, this discussion may seem like a no-brainer. Clearly, Marvel wins in every aspect of movie profitability. Critics and audiences alike seem to score Marvel films highly, and the receipts for this $4 billion Disney purchase make Marvel a bargain buy for the House of the Mouse. While the box office dominance is undeniable, this doesn’t mean that Marvel has a better fan base; it just means that it has better movies.

In fact, the box office reveals something quite different. DC clearly has the better fan base. When a POS like Batman Vs. Superman can rake in $872 million worldwide, it isn’t the casual fan that is making that happen. When a decent but not super film like Suicide Squad can show the legs it has at the end of summer start of fall, it is the DC fans that are making it happen. DC has been making clearly inferior films, and yet, those films have been blockbusters. It can only be fans who return time and again to see their favorite characters. If Marvel had the same fan base, it would have garnered more than the current 4 in the top 12 films on the all-time box office list.

Not only are DC fans propping up the box office, they are also propping up the advertising campaigns. A vocal movement, which made international headlines, to shut down Rotten Tomatoes because of the critic rating of Suicide Squad was enough to create more curiosity among casual movie goers. This seemingly absurd and outlandish petition generated controversy and kept Suicide Squad in the minds of the population who may have otherwise skipped the film because of the critic rating. Critics are often wrong, and in this case, it worked to the advantage of the film.

All of this happens at a company that has no Stan Lee at its forefront. Lee is a god amongst geeks, and his word generally carries fans beyond the pale. His presence in every Marvel film, doesn’t make the film better necessarily, but it does make the fanboys and girls squeal. Lee and his cult of personality should be able to drive every Marvel film above the $1 billion mark. Instead, DC is relying on the strength of the appeal of its characters, if not the actual characters themselves, to bring in audiences, and it has thus far worked.

Marvel films may be glorious hits that are super profitable, but they are drawing on the return presence of fans that aren’t necessarily Marvel fans. DC relies on its core of superfanatics to make sure that it has enough in box office to bring out the next movie. That gives the rest of us hope that DC will figure out how to make the next movie wonderful.

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Marvel Fans Shouldn’t Care about Final Box Office of ‘Avengers: Endgame’

Patch Penguin and the Avengers

The biggest debate in the movie community is where will “Avengers: Endgame” end its box office run. Will it finish in the top spot worldwide and domestic, or will it finish second? Some movie writers have gone so far to call out the manipulations of misleading articles saying that the box office for “Avengers: Endgame” could never reach the domestic gross of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” or the global box office of “Avatar” if the numbers are adjusted for inflation. Comparing today’s box office with 2015’s take for “Force Awakens” and 2009’s gross for “Avatar” is a bit of mathematical chicanery according to critics. “Endgame” is only ranked #36 domestically when adjusted for inflation.

However, whatever ranking “Endgame” finishes with shouldn’t matter. In fact, true Marvel and movie fans shouldn’t be concerned about the final numbers. These movies are so huge, even if they don’t look that great when compared to the adjusted for inflation numbers, because they are currently making money hand over fist for the company that owns their creative rights: Disney. People who love Marvel films have nothing to worry about, even if one of the films underperforms. Instead, Marvel fans need to worry about the other movie properties that aren’t going to rake in the types of numbers these tentpoles do. Those are the films that Marvel fans should rally behind.

I’m not talking DC films or the other big budget releases that may fall into the Box Office hole never to recover (i.e. “Solo”). I’m talking about genuinely small budget films that are amazing. Films like “Hidden Figures,” “BlackKklansman,” or “The Imitation Game” have something to say about our world and are great entertainment to boot. They may get recognition at the Awards ceremonies, but they need box office recognition in order for movie goers to see more films like them on the big screen.

Rather than seeing the next big tent pole five times, or even three time, put that third movie ticket behind a film that isn’t getting much love from the advertisers or from the movie industry. Check out an indie film, a documentary, or even a film that was just overlooked because of the hype behind the big tent pole films. This will help bring more diversity to the movie screen. Creatives will have more opportunity to step away from the ordinary that big budgets have become, and you’ll have a richer life experience. Every time, you see a film, you vote with your dollars showing what you want more of. Don’t let superheroes be the only films we have an opportunity to watch.

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‘Shazam!’ bring the popcorn and have some fun

“Shazam!” is a fun DC romp that shows DC can use humor on its superhero films. Sure, there are some scary parts (The monsters are U-G-L-Y; THEY AIN’T GOT NO ALIBI; THEY UGLY!), and 14-year-old Billy Batson uses his newfound adulthood for some nefarious purposes, one of which he rejects outright. Another he indulges in and commits a crime to go back for more. It’s played for comedy, so it works if you don’t think about it too much.

Zachary Levi is at his goofy, charming best, and “Shazam!” is a fun popcorn movie. If you remember “The Greatest American Hero,” you’ll recognize elements of the TV superhero comedy as Shazam tries to learn about his superpowers.

I saw this in Russian with my wife, who laughed far more than I did, and after discussing with her some of the things I didn’t catch, “Shazam!” may be a little deeper than a popcorn movie. That being said, it was fun, even if it has a deeper message about envy and family.

Apparently, there are some people, aka trolls, causing a ruckus pitting “Shazam!” against “Captain Marvel.” A small part of this stems from the DC vs. Marvel rivalry. Small minds have an issue with holding two competing theories in them, and it’s the same with this rivalry. You can like DC AND Marvel. It’s not either/or; don’t fall for the false dichotomy. In fact, if you like Indie comics and want to see more of them on the big screen, going to see films that are like the Indie comics you love will cause the studios to scour the nation looking for stories they can adapt, thus creating a larger market for the smaller IP.

A larger part of this trollduggery is the unfounded fear that males, and usually white males, have at being rendered irrelevant as the world changes. They lose a power that has been a birthright since before the U.S. was founded, and the act of taking that power away and distributing it so that all people have the same equality of opportunity feels like discrimination. What good are the movies if you don’t share them? While we could delve deeper into the psychology of this issue, I’m just going to let Zachary Levi take it from here:

Of course, if you still want to ring in on the Marvel vs. DC question, you can take our poll.

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Movie Buffs Rejoice! Russian Lobby Cards Coming to Lilac City Comicon 2019

If you love movies and movie memorabilia or you love a certain movie from the last couple of years, we’ll have something for you at the Penguinate table (A1). Our Russian lobby cards are double-sided advertisements for films given away at the Russian cinemas.

Lobby cards used to be a staple of the American cinema, but now, they are collectible and rarely seen at movie theaters in the United States. However, in Russia, movie cards are put out every week, and they are an exact replica of the Russian movie poster. We have brought a limited number of these cards from Russia to the U.S. for you to enjoy. These cards range in size from approximately 3×5 to 4×6 with some being more unique than others.

We have done our best to get the lobby cards from every film in the last year, and many of the cards are from foreign films. We have Marvel, Disney and DC lobby cards, as well as other top-rated films, including Godzilla 2.

Here is a complete list of the lobby cards we will be bringing to our table (A1) at Lilac City Comicon 2019. Come by and find your favorite movie (while supplies last).

24 Hours to Live
A Dog’s Way Home
A Quiet Place
A Star Is Born
Adrift
Alita Battle Angel
American Assassin
American Made
Animation Film Ad
Aritmia (Russia)
Asterix and the Secret Mission
Atterados (Argentina)
Baby Driver
Bad Mamas 2
Bad Samaritan
Bad Times at the El Royale
Bahubali: Birth of a Legend
Bicycles
Big Road (Russia)
Blade Runner 2049
Bohemian Rhapsody
Brothers (Russian)
Byez Mnya
Charming
Chernovik
Chudo-Yudo (Russia)
Coco
Cold Pursuit
Cold Skin (Atlantida; Spain)
Cold War
Corridor of Immortality (Russia)
Crimea (Russia)
Daddy’s Home 2
Dark Mirror (Russia)
Darkest Minds
Day of the Dead: Bloodline
Death Wish
Dessert Ad
Disney Aladdin
Disney Christopher Robin
Disney Dumbo
Disney Incredibles 2
Disney Mary Poppins Returns
Disney Ralph Breaks the Internet
Disney The Jungle Book
Disney The Last Warrior
Disney The Nutcracker and the Four Realms
Disney Wrinkle in Time
Disney Zoopolis
Disney: Beauty and the Beast
Dva Khvosta
Early Man
Equalizer 2
Escape Plan 2
Fantastic Beasts The Crimes of Grindewald
Ferdinand
First Man
Fixiki: The Big Secret
Foto na pamyat
Future World
Gangsterdam (France)
Geostorm
Ghostbusters
Giant Pear
Glass
Godzilla 2
Gogol Beginning (Russia)
Gogol Vii (Russia)
Gogol: Scary Place
Going Vertical (Russia)
Golem
Goosebumps 2
Green Book
Gringo
Halloween
Happiness! Health!
Happy Death Day
Hard Times (Russia)
Holmes and Watson
Hotel Transylvania 3
How to Train Your Dragon 3
I Feel Pretty
Island of Dogs
It
Jim Pykovka and Machinist Lucas
John Wick 3
Jonathan
Jumanji
Jungle
Jurassic World 2
Just Getting Started
Just not them (Russia)
Klubara (Russia)
Kong: Skull Island
Ladybug 2
Lego Film 2
Lego Ninjago
Life
Logan
London Fields
Lucky Logan
Magnificent 7
Mama
Marrowbone (Spain)
Marvel Ant-Man and Wasp
Marvel Avengers: Endgame
Marvel Captain Marvel
Marvel Kingsman: Golden Circle
Marvel Thor: Ragnorok
Marvel Venom
Marvel/ DC: Defenders (Russia)
Marvel/DC Hellboy
Marvel/DC Shazam
Marvel/DC: Justice League
Marvel/DC: Suicide Squad
Marvel: Avengers: Infinity War
Marvel: Black Panther
Marvel: Captain America: Civil War
Marvel: Deadpool 2
Marvel: Once Upon a Deadpool
Mary and the Witch’s Flower
Mary Queen of Scots
Mathilda (Russia)
May Bee
Maze Runner: The Death Cure
Meg
Midnight Sun
Millions (Russia)
Mission Impossible Fallout
Monster Family
Monster Island
Mortal Engines
Mowgli Decoy Planets
Murder on the Orient Express
My Favorite Dinosaur
My Little Pony
Nevedimka
Night Games
Niproshchenyi (Russian)
Niscrushimi (Russian)
Ocean’s 8
Overboard
Pacific Rim 2
Paddington 2
Peppermint
Pet Semetary
Piligrim (Russia)
Play or Die
Power Rangers
Prishelits (Russia)
Proza Brodyach Psob Anime
Rampage
Ready Player 1
Red Sparrow
Renegades
Ribbit
Robin Hood 2018
Robot Park Ad
Rossvet (Russia)
Santa and Company (France)
Saw 8
Searching
Second Act
Selfie from Hell
Serenity 2019
Shape of Water
Sicario 2
Skyline 2
Skyscraper
Smallfoot
Smurfs: The Lost Village
Snow Queen
Snowman
Spascti Leningrad
Star Wars: Solo
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Suburbicon
Super Bobrovyi (Russia)
Tad and the Secret of King Midas
Tag
Tanks (Russia)
The Boy and the Beast
The Cured
The Curse of Llorna
The Dark Tower
The Foreigner
The Girl in the Spider’s Web
The Greatest Showman
The Hitman’s Bodyguard
The Hustle
The Kid Who Would Be King
The Legend of Kolovrat (Russia)
The Little Vampire
The Mercy
The Mountains Between Us
The New Year (Russia)
The Nun
The Predator 2018
The Professor and the Madman
The School (2018)
The Upside
Three Warriors and the nasledushi prestola
Three Warriors and the Princess of Egypt
Time of Monsters
Titan
Tobol (Russia)
Tomb Raider
Truth or Dare
Unsane
What Happened to Monday
Who Is Who
Widows
Wildling
Winchester: The house that Ghosts Built
Wish Upon
Wolf Obtsi
Wonder
Wonder Park
You Were Never Really Here
Your Name
Zapovednik (Russia)

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Does ‘Avengers: Endgame’ trailer tell the whole story?

Marvel has misled us before with its trailers. They have shown clips that didn’t make it in the movie: Remember the Hulk in the Battle of Wakanda? It was in the trailer but not in the movie. Marvel has also created trailers that showed scenes from the first 30 minutes and nothing else. (I think it was “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.”) They’ve kept entire stories under wraps, except when Tom Holland has spilled the beans, and apparently Holland didn’t get the entire script for “Avengers: Endgame.”

What if this is what they’re doing now? These trailers could be from the first hour of the movie leaving the last two hours under wraps while we all pontificate over the details.

What are we going to see? Two and a half hours of Avengers assembling? This isn’t a Lego movie, and we already did that in “The Avengers.” Two and half hours of Tony Stark lost in space? This isn’t a sequel to “Gravity,” and Robert Downey, Jr. is no George Clooney. Two and a half hours of a “Fantastic Voyage through Inner Space”? We’ve been to the Quantum Realm; Marvel wouldn’t take us there again for the same meta-reason Doctor Strange didn’t use his Dormammu-bargaining time loop with Thanos.

They have to show the Avengers avenging to pay off Tony Stark’s assertion that “If we can’t protect the Earth, you can be damn sure we’ll avenge it.” So far, the Avengers haven’t done any avenging. They protected the Earth on two occasions. They have to recruit Hawkeye/Ronin. They have to get Nebula and Tony Stark back. They may face trip through the Quantum Realm. They may get transported through space by Captain Marvel.

But we’ve already seen them battle Thanos. We’ve seen them in their glory, even if they didn’t win, even if it was without Captain Marvel. We’ve seen them going after the Mad Titan. Marvel isn’t going to make a three-hour long film about something they’ve already done. A battle they win against Thanos can’t be any more exciting than the one they already loss. We might as well plug in the Battle of Helm’s Deep. If Marvel wants to score more than just the largest opening weekend ever, it’s going to need to do something new. The addition of Captain Marvel and some time travel mumbo-jumbo isn’t it.

Which brings us to the Endgame… The Gamemaster, Red Skull, ADAM from Guardians of the Galaxy, and the Collector are presumably still around. Any of these characters could figure into the plot, especially considering that Jeff Goldblum and Benicio del Toro are big enough names not to waste on a couple of cameos and a theme park attraction. Maybe there’s a villain we haven’t seen manipulating Thanos and events.

Where does the story go after Thanos? I doubt if a second meeting and subsequent defeating of Thanos will be satisfying enough to justify three hours of film, and if that’s the case and “Avengers: Endgame” is only about beating Thanos, it could have a short and financially disappointing theater run. Then again, what if that Hulk scene in Wakanda was filmed for “Avengers: Endgame”?

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Endgame Spoilers: Playing with the F-Word ‘Avengers: Endgame’ Trolls the Trolls

This article contains spoilers for “Avengers: Endgame.” If you haven’t seen it, yet, seriously? You haven’t seen it, yet? Okay, well, since things on the Internet are forever and this could be read sometime in the future, if you haven’t seen it yet, book mark this page and come back to it. If you have seen “Endgame” then continue on after the trailer.

There is a certain segment of the movie going (and general) population whose trigger word is “feminism.” They came out against “Ghostbusters,” so hard that Leslie Jones had to delete her Twitter account. They’ve joined forces to harass “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” star Kelly Marie Tran into leaving social media.

The problem is so bad that when Rotten Tomatoes recognized campaigns to sink “Captain Marvel” “Black Panther” and “Star Wars: Episode IX” through bad reviews before the films were released, it changed its policy for reviewing films and only allowed people to review films after they had been released. That same anti-“Captain Marvel” campaign was addressed by “Shazam!” star Zachary Levi in a class act social media post about how those actions actually hurt fandoms. People can like both films.

All of this plays into one amazing scene in “Avengers: Endgame.” All of the women on the battlefield during the confrontation with Thanos and his army come together on the screen to relieve Spider-Man and keep the gauntlet away from Thanos. It’s a glorious scene and sequence.

My first thought was “OMG! They did it. I can’t believe they did it. It’s amazing.” My second thought was “OMG! They did it. I can’t believe they did it. The trolls are going to be talking about this scene and deriding the movie because of it.” And they did come out to comment, which is unfortunate because one of the comments was a ridiculous “It’s not even realistic that all these women could get together on a chaotic battlefield to make this scene work.”

Let’s just take this comment at face value. “It’s not realistic…” This battle is literally about one thing: Getting the Infinity Gauntlet and keeping it away from Thanos. That’s all this battle is about. It’s not about killing the army on Thanos’ side. It’s not about counting bodies. It’s not about anything but Thanos and the gauntlet. Every eye in that battle, especially on the Avengers side, should be on that gauntlet and where it is at all times. Yes, you don’t want to get taken out by one of Thanos’ minions, but you also don’t want to get taken out by a second snap. So, when the women heard Spider-Man was in trouble, they all gathered to protect the him and the gauntlet.

Now, let’s move on to the more important point: “It’s not realistic…” We are talking about a movie where a rage monster merged with a genius and became a green, hulking scientist with little penchant for smashing things. This movie also featured an Asgardian getting a beer belly, half the beings in the universe having been snapped away, and stones holding sway over space, time, souls, reality, mind and power. Women were riding winged horses. Aliens were coming out of there spaceships. A man had grown to the size of skyscraper. A majority of the main cast had traveled through time, and many of the rest of them were resurrected after being dead for five years. Yes, it’s not realistic. It’s a comic book movie.

And let’s examine one more point: Comic team-ups are the best, especially for those who are less interested in comics. As a kid, I didn’t have a lot of money for comic books, so when I did buy them, they were either really cheap and secondhand or they were a comic that included a team-up. The return of almost the entire 11 years of Marvel superheroes at the beginning of the battle was powerful. Having the women team-up in the middle of the battle was also powerful. It was that moment of awe and wonder. They were both fan services, just for different types of fans.

For anyone who would criticize this scene, it’s important to realize what the scene really is and why you’re reacting to it negatively. Chances are, if you dig deep enough, you’ll find that you don’t like its implications of change at a cultural level. It does represent a shift in the status quo, and there’s no going back, no matter how much you fight, whine, complain and troll. What you should realize, though, is this shift is going to make it possible for your favorite comic book characters to survive. As more people enjoy the movies, the profits will funnel to the Marvel division of Disney and they will keep the comic books themselves on the shelves.

If you love Marvel comics, you should be grateful for everyone who saw “Avengers: Endgame” regardless of their politics and the fan service paid to them. Instead of wasting your time trolling, step into the light of a new day and find your power for positive transformation – like Bruce Banner and the Hulk. Maybe, you’ll even realize that scene wasn’t a fan service, it was a way to troll the trolls.

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‘Avengers: Endgame’ faces impossible challenge after ‘Avengers: Infinity War’

The problem with “Avengers: Infinity War” is the way it ended and what we knew about the next Marvel movies. Basically, Thanos’ snap eliminated the newest half of the Marvel Universe, including most of Ant-Man’s allies, leaving the old heroes to find a way to avenge the snap, which would fit in perfectly with what Tony Stark told Loki in the first Avengers film and serve as a way to tie the franchise together.

However, the upcoming movie slate after Infinity War includes “Spider-Man: Far from Home” (eliminating the emotional impact of his demise in Infinity War), “Black Panther” (which could possibly give rise to a female Black Panther because T’challa was dusted), “Guardians of the Galaxy 3” (though James Gunn departure after a controversy left this in doubt, Kevin Feige says it’s still on; it could team Rocket with the Reavers and/or Nebula) and “Doctor Strange 2” (which at this point I don’t have an observations on, except its Benedict Cumberbatch, and Mysterio looks like he uses magic).

With all of these movies, and the stars whose contracts are expiring – Chris Evans (Captain America), Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Mark Ruffalo (Hulk), Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man), Scarlett Johansson (Black Widow) and Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye) – as well as the apparent good byes and statements that some won’t be returning to the roles, there is no way for the Marvel Universe to continue without a complete reversal of an entire movie. This seems like it has all kinds of potential to go lame though that type of action has happened before – most notably in the last episode of “Twin Peaks” season 3.

One twist for Endgame could turn the Marvel Universe on its head. What if all the characters that died were the ones to survive, and the audience saw the dusting from the characters’ who actually died point of view? This would mean Rocket died, which would make sense because it has already been stated that he doesn’t have a long lifespan as a raccoon. It would also mean that Bruce Banner is dead, but the hulk isn’t necessarily dead. This type of reveal would make it easier to accept the Nick Fury/Spider-Man alliance. It could be interesting to see how the old characters deal with the reality of their demise while the mirror splits back to the new characters who did actually survive.

At this point though, “Avengers: Endgame,” which releases on April 26, 2019, lacks the stakes that Infinity War had during its run. The new characters are going to come back, and no one will be surprised when the old characters die. Marvel has more creative people than me working for it, and just because the general outcome of the movie is known doesn’t mean it won’t be good. But because we already know so much about it beyond the movie itself, it may not be engaging, especially if Peter Parker comes back and is threatened with death again. He’s already got a movie coming out, and it has a trailer. (Check out other movie related posts.)

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Endgame Spoilers: The ‘Black Widow’ Movie Has a Problem

Patch Penguin and the Avengers

Marvel was hailed for its decision to finally give fans what they had been asking for: a “Black Widow” movie starring Scarlett Johansson. This is a movie fanboys and fanwomen can get behind with little controversy. The only problem is (spoilers ahead) –

Black Widow is dead.

ICYMI, (and with a global box office take heading beyond $2 billion, how could you?): Black Widow sacrificed herself to get the Soul Stone, so that Hawkeye could go back to his family. This exchange is permanent according to the paragon of truth known as the Red Skull (Do we really trust his word on it and how did he get to be an expert after being sent to Vormir by the Tesseract?). Hulk Banner tried to bring her back with his snap and failed. So, as far as anyone knows, Black Widow is dead forever and ever. Amen.

Of course, permanent in the comic book world is really more like “until pent up demand will sell a whole lot of comics with the right story line.) And Marvel has a problem with keeping its characters dead. Just ask Agent/Director Phil Coulson (I thought his name was “agent”), or any of the dozens of characters brought back in “Avengers: Endgame.” So, what will the “Black Widow” movie be about?

The Prequel

Let’s assume that Black Widow is dead and not coming back. That makes the “Black Widow” movie a prequel – or, as I like to call prequels, a movie with no stakes. We already know what happens to Natasha Romanoff in the future. We know she joins the Avengers and ends up sacrificing herself for the greater good. We spent the last decade learning who Romanoff is now, not knowing much about her past.

This type of “Black Widow” movie would have the same problem that “Solo” had. It’s playing with a character that everyone knows and loves. In “Solo,” there wasn’t enough character turning to explain how Han went from someone who loves a woman to someone who is only out for himself. (Maybe future movies would’ve explored this arc, but those look to be defunct as do many of the other Star Wars movies that were planned.” To succeed, the prequel would have to fully explain how Romanoff went from U.S.S.R. super spy to S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, especially after going through extensive brainwashing and the cultural brainwashing that comes from living in any society.

You could write her change in heart and nature while comparing it to the fall of the U.S.S.R., but this type of political and historical action will need a context that many people today, even those who lived through it, simply lack. It’s a risky proposition fraught with peril and landmines.

A prequel would also necessitate another landmine situation. Scarlett Johansson would have to go through the same de-aging process as Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Michael Douglas, and to a lesser extent, Michelle Pfeiffer. In the body-positive age, will anyone be happy with a de-aged ScarJo? No one’s made a bug deal about it with the men or with Pfeiffer, but done incorrectly, it could have a negative impact greater than the trolls that regularly come out to jeer Marvel’s superwomen.

While it’s unlikely that any titular character is going to die in his or her own movie, the possibility of Black Widow’s death in a prequel is zero. Prequels, like flashbacks, have no weight. They have no stakes. Instead of advancing the story of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, they stop it dead in its tracks. “Captain Marvel” was well-received, but knowing she was in Endgame took away some of the power the movie could’ve had. “Black Widow” would suffer in the same way. The film will be like watching a biography or documentary made by a company that usually deals in high stakes movies.

The Alternate Timeline

It’s an alternate timeline Black Widow! This could certainly be more entertaining to watch as Romanoff gets plucked out of time and transported to the present day that requires her specific set of skills. This “Black Widow” could more fully develop Marvel’s version of time travel and the problems it causes. It could even be set up as part of the story line that Black Widow’s death and some seriously negative side effects. (What if she’s the glue for a team that otherwise won’t work together and fails at their mission?) The story could really be anything with an alternate timeline Romanoff.

The problem with this “Black Widow” movie is that people are used to Marvel films and television (even the Netflix shows) taking place in the same timeline. That’s what built up the colossal success of “Endgame.” While some shows may be moving in that direction (i.e. Disney+’s “Loki”), the movies could have a problem keeping their audiences and their tie-ins to each other. Marvel could come up with a designation to separate out the timelines, but it could get messy for quickly and destroy the cohesiveness that has allowed the MCU to flourish on the movie screen. Fortunately, fan sites can help keep people straight on which movie goes where.

The Soul Stone

The Soul Stone is said to trap the souls exchanged for its use inside a pocket dimension or alternate reality. Exploring this world would definitely be interesting and move the story forward. Perhaps, because Black Widow sacrificed herself, the Soul Stone reacts differently to her. It may be the reason she’s able to return, proving the Red Skull wring in the process. The self-sacrifice and its purity in act and intention would explain why Gamora can’t escape, as could her child form. However, it’s possible for her child form to play the role of mentor and guide for Black Widow.

The souls trapped in the stone could be like crabs in a bucket. They keep each other trapped, and Black Widow will have to figure out how to fix that. In this scenario Gamora could be used to betray Black Widow when its revealed that Gamora has been sabotaging Romanoff from the beginning. The Soul Stone doesn’t sound like a good entity if it wants to trap souls. In the case of Gamora, it may be that the longer a soul spends in the stone, the more corrupt it becomes.

If Marvel still wants to include an origin story for Black Widow, it can use the Soul Stone alternate reality as a place made up of the person’s past experiences. This could be a sort of health, especially if the Soul Stone gains its powers through the torture of souls (or through their screams, like Monstropolis in “Monsters Inc.” before they found the true power of a child’s laughter).

Marvel continues to surprise and wow audiences, but even the best of studios is going to make a misstep. Let’s hope “Black Widow” isn’t the next one.